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Old 04-30-2018, 06:47 AM   #41
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First off, some paleontological grumbling: Quetzalcoatlus doesn't have 'fingered' wings! Nor does any pterosaur. Life restorations such as this one show clearly that the wing was a single unbroken membrane from fingertip (the fourth finger) to leg. They were also almost all furry - the technical term is 'pycnofibres', but 'pterofuzz' gets the point across. ^_^ We do actually know of a finger-winged non-mammal: Jurassic dinosaur Yi Qi, which is frankly weird, but also a) tiny and b) probably feathered. So far as I know, other than that the only finger-wing bearers are bats.

Now, onto the reason I dug this thread up: what exactly was the Mordor Special Mission Flying Corps? We have its ridiculously complex logo; we have the description on the page Gordis linked. We know it exists - but what is it?

Setting aside the possibility that Sauron felt the Nazgul needed pretty badges (perhaps to make them feel better after losing their beloved horses?), or the idea that Sauron had an army of dragons in his back garden which he just never bothered to use... well, we're pretty much left with bats! We know that bats hung out with the goblin armies - we see them in The Hobbit - but we never hear much about their combat skills.

It has been noted recently by Nerwen that 'vampire' is sometimes used as a synonym for 'vampire bat' (including in Dracula), so even if Sauron didn't have access to the full-fledged Messengers used by Morgoth (eg, Thuringwethil), his bats were probably rather nastier than we might imagine today. Could they be intelligent enough to warrant a badge? Or is the emblem perhaps worn by their handlers, those specially-trained Orcs who get the bat-swarm into the air as and when it's needed?

And, while we're on the subject, when is it needed? Bats aren't exactly suited for high-altitude surveillance; if they're iron-clawed bloodsuckers, you'd expect them to mostly be loosed with a specific target in mind. Perhaps they were deployed in Ithilien, to stalk the night with terror on the cheap. Or maybe they guarded the Mountains of Mordor, making sure no intrepid armies tried to cross away from the two known passes. Or... could they have been intended for aerial defence of Mordor, if for example certain giant Eagles tried to cross the mountains...?

(As it happens, the first hit I get on searching for the MSMFC is a Reddit thread, in which someone says: "If I remember it correctly, this was mostly a tongue-in-cheek comment by Tolkien on the endless debates and to this day unceasing debates about why the Eagles didn't just fly the ring into Mordor." But there's no source... )

EDIT: Or... a bit more Googling suggests another possibility. From the last post on this page:

Another doodle related to his fiction, from August 1967, may have begun as a stylized flower drawn in the previous month. But its resemblance to an aviator's badge suggested another meaning to Tolkien, at once sinister and amusing, within the context of his stories: the 'Mordor Special Mission Flying Corps Emblem'. The MSMFC - Tolkien wrote the initials on the sheet both in ordinary capitals and in tengwar - are undoubtedly the Nazgul, Sauron's most powerful and terrible servants in The Lord of the Rings. Towards the end of the War of the Ring they were mounted on giant winged creatures of a fantastic kind. The caption at the centre of the sheet, 'seen from below', suggests that the drawing represents an actual view from the ground of one of the winged beasts - though it is more likely that Tolkien was just being playful.
This is an RAF pilot badge, and bears a remarkable similarity to the MSMFC emblem. So perhaps we should take another look at that notion of Sauron comforting the Ringwraiths by giving them shiny badges... with maybe a side-order of the fact that Tolkien just plain didn't like the Air Force, and had a snarky sense of humour on him...


Last edited by Huinesoron; 04-30-2018 at 06:57 AM. Reason: Google.
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Old 04-30-2018, 07:02 AM   #42
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Yes, I can't help but feel as if the MSMFC is just a joke.
"Since the evening of that day we have journeyed from the shadow of Tol Brandir."
"On foot?" cried Éomer.
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Old 04-30-2018, 07:29 AM   #43
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Originally Posted by Zigūr View Post
Yes, I can't help but feel as if the MSMFC is just a joke.
:O How can you say such a thing? Don't you know that every single action Tolkien ever took, every word he ever wrote and every sketch he ever drew has deep and abiding meaning that could potentially reshape everything we thought we knew about Middle-earth?!

... yeah. Interestingly, though, it's a joke that would mostly only be 'got' by those familiar with RAF badges, which is a recognition factor probably more common around the World Wars than it is today. Interesting (to me), but not unexpected, for obvious reasons.

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Old 05-02-2018, 01:51 AM   #44
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I know the movies changed the appearance of the FBs but Jackson have them used as both terror mounts and had them affect the battle by clasping hapless soldiers and then dropping them.

Maybe the book FBs didn't have this ability.

Anyway they'd still make excellent scouts and command vehicles allowing the nazgul to search wide areas, survey battlefields and command from above.
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